Lot 4
  • 4

Andy Warhol

1,000,000 - 1,500,000 GBP
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  • Andy Warhol
  • Flowers
  • signed and dated 64 on the overlap
  • acrylic and silkscreen ink on linen
  • 55.9 by 55.9cm.; 22 by 22in.
  • Executed in 1964-65.


Ethel and Robert Scull, New York

Leo Castelli Gallery, New York (LC #721)

Mrs. J. Irwin Miller, Columbus

Cummins Engine Company, Columbus

Sale: Sotheby's, New York, Contemporary Art, 4 October 1990, Lot 204

Private Collection, Switzerland

Sale: Phillips de Pury & Company, London, Contemporary Art Evening Sale, 18 October 2008, Lot 326

Acquired directly from the above by the present owner


Indianapolis, Indianapolis Museum of Art, Art from Business and Corporate Collections, 1977

Indianapolis, Indianapolis Museum of Art, Selections from Corporate Collections, 1979


George Frei and Neil Printz, Eds., The Andy Warhol Catalogue Raisonné: Paintings and SculpturesVolume 2B, 1964-1969, New York 2004, p. 50, no. 1498, illustrated in colour


Colour: The colour in the catalogue illustration is fairly accurate, although the red flower tends more towards coral and the darker blue flowers are deeper and richer. Condition: This work is in very good condition. No restoration is apparent when examined under ultra-violet light.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

Andy Warhol’s Flowers are some of the most enduring images from the famous Pop artist and are synonymous with his first show with Leo Castelli in November 1964. In this iconic exhibition the gallery walls were covered in vibrant colourways of a single repeating flower motif appropriated from an article printed in Modern Photography Magazine. Differing in scale and alternating in colour formation – ranging from monochrome black and white through to the exuberant polyphony of red and blue evident in the present work – the Flowers’ square format allowed Warhol the freedom to display his series in exciting mosaic-like arrangements throughout the exhibition. Significantly, this series represents the culmination of Warhol’s 1960s Pop era; with this exhibition the artist concluded his breakthrough focus on 60s mass imagery, such as Coca Cola and Marilyn Monroe, and announced his ‘retirement’ from the practice of painting to concentrate on film making. Furthermore, this specific example possesses an esteemed history having been part of the famous private collections of Robert and Ethel Scull – important early patrons of Warhol – and J. Irwin Miller – a patron of modern architecture and collector of modern art who exhibited this Flowers painting as part of his collection in 1977 at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. Executed in striking chromatic shades and boasting a fine pedigree of previous ownership, this painting is utterly synonymous with Warhol at the very height of his creative powers.

Where Warhol’s previous series' had confronted the darker subject of death and criminality, the gradual move away from felons to flowers accompanied the social growth of the ‘flower power’ and hippy era. However, despite their exuberant appearance and outwardly light-hearted appeal, Warhol’s Flowers also possess the very same underlying morbid vulnerability as his previous work. As outlined by Jean Genet, “There is a close relationship between flowers and convicts. The fragility and delicacy of the former are of the same nature as the brutal insensitivity of the latter” (Jean Genet quoted in: Exhibition Catalogue, New York, Eykyn Maclean, Andy Warhol Flowers, 2012, p. 6).

On another level, by using a floral motif Warhol confronted the centuries old art historical tradition of still-life painting. As discussed by Gerard Malanga, “In a funny way, he was kind of repeating the history of art. It was like we’re doing my Flower period! Like Monet’s water lillies” (Gerard Malanga quoted in: David Dalton and David McCabe, A Year in the Life of Andy Warhol, New York 2003, p. 74). However, a more apt association than the Impressionist works of Monet is perhaps the parallel between Warhol’s Flowers and the historical tradition of Dutch Vanitas painting. This sixteenth and seventeenth-century tradition drew upon the symbolic portent of flowers in late bloom, extinguished candles, mirrors and skulls to illuminate the inevitability of mortality. In the same way, and in accord with his portraits of Marilyn Monroe in which youth and beauty is revealed as superficial and transient, the Flowers possess a pathos that feeds upon two-dimensional surface values and serial repetition. In this way, Warhol purposefully degrades emotional impact whilst at the same time revealing the hollowness of worldly delights. In the Flowers Warhol wields the historical and integrates it into his blasé Pop idiom.

Perhaps most significantly however, the Flowers are notorious for having marked a milestone in the art historical discussion of appropriation. By using a photograph from Modern Photography Magazine’s June 1964 edition, in which seven hibiscus flowers were printed three times with slight variations, Warhol took a seemingly innocuous and anonymous image of flowers only to be sued by the photographer Patricia Caulfield for copyright infringement. Presaging, therefore, the controversy of artists such as Richard Prince whose career has been continuously plagued by legal action, Warhol’s use of Caulfield’s photograph placed him at the forefront of the artistic debate for post-modern appropriation.

In sum, delivering Warhol’s most enduring inquiries – death, mass production and beauty – the Flowers transformed the practice of still life painting and ignited the key debate of appropriation for the post-modern era.